"…As usual, Ancalagon gives us an absolutely first-rate production, superb booklet notes in full color, and some of the best Super Audio surround sound on the market today. I keep insisting that small group chamber music provides some of the best opportunities to show off surround sound, and this disc proves the point. When the music is as brilliant and sparkling as we have here—Bach would certainly be thrilled—there simply remains no excuse under the sun to avoid acquiring this disc immediately. This composer oozes from the souls of these two performers." 5/5 ~Audiophile Audition
This two-CD set is actually part of an ambitious undertaking: ESS.A.Y Recordings recorded these sonatas in two different versions, this one featuring Ms. Tenenbaum on a modern violin and accompanied by a modern piano played by Richard Kapp; the other recording (reviewed below) features Ms. Tenenbaum playing an older violin and accompanied by a harpsichord played by Gerald Ranck.
The music of Peteris Vasks must be considered against the background of the socially and politically turbulent history of his home country Latvia. It frequently shifts through contrasting emotional states, with passages of sumptuous beauty sometimes followed by disjointed and dramatic sounds. According to Vasks, all three of the works for violin and orchestra featured here represent the polarity between optimistic hope for a better future and an anxious concern for the modern world. Included are the fantasia Vox Amoris, the concerto Tala gaisma (Distant Light), Vasks' first and most extensive work for violin and string orchestra and the tone poem Vientulais engelis (Lonely Angel). All are performed by the exceptional violinist Alina Pogostkina, superbly accompanied by the Sinfonietta Riga under the direction of Juha Kangas.
Franz Liszt composed little chamber music, though the handful of pieces he wrote or arranged for violin and piano represent his enduring interest in that combination, from the Grand Duo concertant (1835/49) to La lugubre gondola (1882-83). This program by violinist Ulf Wallin and pianist Roland Pöntinen offers those pieces and five more selections that demonstrate Liszt's fondness for passionate, long-breathed melodies in the Magyar vein and turbulent accompaniments that allowed for virtuosity. The standout track of this hybrid SACD is the arrangement of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (ca. 1850), which gives a full treatment to those characteristics, and provides Wallin and Pöntinen their most dazzling displays. While the moods of the surrounding pieces are for the most part lyrical and subdued, the performances are compelling and the sound of the recording is close-up and focused, with the presence and clarity of a recital.
Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded Bach before, on both piano and harpsichord. His interpretations are not jazz versions of Bach but are played straight. In this case you might say relatively straight, for Bach's sonatas for violin and keyboard, BWV 1014-1019, were written for a harpsichord and are generally played that way; somehow the ear is jarred more by the piano here than in Bach's solo keyboard music (which Jarrett has also recorded). Jarrett fans will find the evidence of his characteristic style not in rhythmic inflections toward jazz but in his way of sustaining notes, which is never excessive.